Lunar Lander Challenge with Janet’s Planet Make Your Own Lunar Lander Design and build a shock-absorbing system that will protect two “astronauts” when they land. Follow the Design Process to: (1) design and build a shock-absorbing system out of paper, straws, and mini-marshmallows; (2) attach their shock absorber to a paper plate platform; and (3) improve their design based on testing results.
Cabin for the astronauts (paper cup)
Tape/Rubber Bands/Paper Clips
Shock Absorbers aka (folded index card) • Fold an index card into a spring. When you jump off a high step, you bend your back and knees to absorb some of the energy and break your fall. That’s what a shock absorber does—absorbs the energy of an impact. Soft things, like marshmallows, cotton balls, foam, and bubble wrap absorb shock well. You can also use paper, like this index card made into a spring by folding it like an accordion.
What kind of shock absorber can you make from these materials to help soften a landing? Marshmallows can serve as soft footpads. Cards can be folded into springs.
Straws can provide a flexible structure. Rubber bands can flex and hold things together. Now make sure the lander doesn’t tip over as it falls through the air.
When you make the parts below the platform weigh more than the parts on the top the lander falls straight down. Also, it helps to evenly distribute the weight on top of the platform.
Build, test, evaluate, and redesign.
If the lander tips over when it drops—Move the cup slightly away from the side that’s tipping. Or, reposition the parts of the shock-absorbing system to better balance the weight.
Check out the results from a Lunar Lander Challenge with Janet’s Planet at the Hendersonville Relay for Life Event.
Potential and kinetic energy—When the lander hits the surface, its motion (kinetic) energy is changed into stored (potential) energy, which gets stored in the shock absorbers.
Acceleration due to gravity—The lander accelerates (speeds up) as it falls due to Earth’s gravitational pull.
Air resistance—Air exerts a force on the lander as it falls, slowing it down.
Kids measure the various heights from which they drop the lander. Change the size, position, or the number of shock-absorbing parts.
You can also add mini-marshmallows for landing-pad feet. Or, you can use marshmallows at key junctions in the lander’s frame to help absorb energy.
What forces affected your lander as it fell? (It accelerated [sped up] as it fell due to the pull of gravity. Air also pushed on it, and this air resistance slowed it down.) After testing, what changes did you make to your lander? Engineers’ early ideas rarely work out perfectly. How do you think testing helps them improve their design?
Testing actually helps you see what works and what doesn’t. Knowing this lets you improve a design by fixing the things that aren’t working well or could work even better.
CREDIT: Design Squad TM/© 2008 WGBH Educational Foundation